Ivanka Trump at the White House on March 8. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Did Ivanka Trump skip Easter at the White House because she’s Jewish?


Covering the White House Easter Egg Roll live, CNN reporter John Berman noted that Ivanka Trump was not in attendance. Maybe, he speculated, it was because she’s Jewish.

“I saw Tiffany Trump just there before. Not Ivanka or Jared Kushner. Of course, Ivanka Trump is Jewish,” he said during Monday’s festivities. “I don’t know if she’s taking part in the Easter egg roll on the south lawn or not.”

The Newsbusters website pointed out Berman’s comment Monday and criticized what it called his “bizarre conspiracy theory” for why Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter, and husband Kushner were not there.

But not so fast. The political news website Politico reported Sunday that Ivanka Trump and Kushner, both top White House aides, “were spending Passover at the Four Seasons Whistler resort in Canada. It was their second ski trip in the past month.”

Monday was the seventh day Passover. So the Trumps may very well have still been on the bunny hill.

Does that count as a Jewish motive for missing Easter?

The president’s grandchildren were at the Easter Egg Roll, according to The New York Times. But the newspaper does not specify which of the eight youngsters were spotted or whether Ivanka Trump’s three offspring were among them.

If Trump did skip out on the Easter Egg Roll for some Passover powder, it was clearly not out of any Jewish aversion to the Christian holiday. On Monday, she tweeted Easter greetings and a happy birthday wish to her son, who was born on Easter.

Santa, the Easter bunny and raising a Jewish child


Last spring, I found myself averting my eyes when my 4-year-old mentioned something about the Easter bunny in front of my dad.

We were at my parents’ home in Michigan for Passover and my son said, “When I get back to Brooklyn, the Easter bunny is going to bring me a basket!”

I didn’t want to see the look on my dad’s face or hear him mutter under his breath.

Although my son is being raised as a Jew, he celebrates Christmas and Easter with his non-Jewish father, my ex. I know it bothers my dad to hear his grandson talk about these Christian icons. It bothers me, too.

During our four-year courtship prior to becoming engaged, my then-boyfriend and I came to an agreement about the religious upbringing of our future children. After taking two classes on Jewish culture and an interfaith couple’s workshop at the JCC, we agreed that our children would be raised according to Jewish tradition but could celebrate Christian holidays — in a secular way — with their non-Jewish grandparents. But after my husband and I separated and eventually divorced, some of the prenuptial agreements we made surrounding our interfaith family were no longer heeded.

Before our separation, my husband had begrudgingly agreed not to have a Christmas tree in our home. But since our separation, he has had a tree every winter. That means Santa doesn’t just bring gifts to my son’s grandparents’ homes in Seattle, but to his father’s home in Brooklyn, too.

I understand and respect that it is my ex’s right to observe his family’s traditions. I know he wants to share the holiday experiences he loved as a kid with our son, and that includes having the decorations and believing in the harmless characters associated with the holidays. But I struggle with it nonetheless.

Our son attends a Jewish preschool and has all kinds of children in his class – some with two Jewish parents, some from interfaith homes and others who are not Jewish at all. He already knows that families have their own ways of observing the holidays, and that you can be Jewish and still celebrate non-Jewish holidays with some of your family and friends.

Last December he rambled on and on about what Santa was going to bring him for Christmas. I was tempted to remind him that he is Jewish and explain that Jews don’t believe in Santa. But I went along with it because I didn’t want to burst his Christmas bubble.

Nevertheless, it’s hard for me to accept that our child won’t be raised according to the terms that my ex-husband and I had agreed upon before we married. And somehow I feel threatened that inserting these Christian traditions into my son’s home life will dilute his Jewish identity, even though I know a Christmas elf can’t come and stomp out thousands of years of Jewish tradition.

When April came around and my son informed me, “If I’m a good boy, the Easter bunny will bring me a basket of treats!” I decided not just to corroborate the Easter bunny’s existence but use him as a disciplinary tactic.

When my son began misbehaving, I said, “If you don’t act nicely, the Easter bunny may not bring you a basket!” But the tack didn’t feel right either.

Recently, I have been wondering whether my son could really understand what a character is. When we were watching “Shrek,” I decided to ask him.

“Is Shrek real?”

“No, Mommy!” he answered with an eye roll. “Shrek is a character!”

“Oh! Like Santa Claus?” I asked.

“No, Mommy! Santa Claus is real!”

“How do you know he’s real?” I said.

“Because he brings me presents!”

Do I break it to him that a fat bearded man will not actually squeeze himself through a chimney (especially considering there are very few chimneys in Brooklyn apartments)? Or do I let him figure it out when he gets a bit older, like he probably would if he were raised by two Christian parents?

And come spring, do I tell him that no giant Harvey-sized rabbit is going to show up with a basket full of treats, but that his grandmother will carefully pick out the treats in Seattle, put them in a priority mailbox and ship them to Brooklyn?

For the time being, I figure I’ll leave it alone, and age will take care of it.

I believe we will provide our son with a strong enough Jewish identity that these Christmas and Easter icons will not threaten his understanding of who he is. But ask me again later this month. I may change my mind.

(Annette Powers is a marketing and communications professional. In her free time, she writes about a variety of topics from co-parenting to Yom Kippur to compulsive texting.)

Pope Francis, Rome chief rabbi exchange holiday greetings


Pope Francis and Rome’s Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni exchanged greetings to mark Passover and Easter.

The two holidays overlap this year: Easter is on Sunday; Passover started last week and ends Tuesday.

The holidays, Di Segni wrote to the pontiff, “represent both the link and the separation between our religions.” He noted that over history, Easter often was the occasion of anti-Semitic attacks.

Today, however, “these days are experienced by both faiths in joy and harmony,” the rabbi wrote, and he paid tribute to “all those people who have been committed to this healing.”

Di Segni offered a prayer for the pope “in the spirit of respect and brotherly friendship” with the hope that the Lord “renders us able to reciprocally understand the sense of difference and the value of brotherhood.”

In his message to Di Segni on the eve of Passover, the pope prayed that “the Almighty, who freed His people from slavery in Egypt to guide them to the Promised Land, continue to deliver you from all evil and to accompany you with His blessing. I ask you to pray for me, as I assure you of my prayers for you, confident that we can deepen [our] ties of mutual esteem and friendship.”

Celebrating his first Easter as pontiff, Francis in his holiday message issued a plea for global peace, including in the Middle East and specifically between Israelis and Palestinians.

Listing a number of conflict areas around the world where he prayed for peace, he spoke of “peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long.”

On Sunday, Christian pilgrims from around the world marked Easter in Jerusalem, where the Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal led Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is believed to be the place where Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead on Easter.

Judge denies Easter Mass for Jewish girl


A court in Chicago has ruled that a father may not take his Jewish daughter to Catholic Mass on Easter.

Joseph Reyes grabbed headlines when he took his daughter to church and had her baptized despite a temporary restraining order filed by his estranged wife that bars him from exposing their daughter to anything but the Jewish faith.

On Wednesday, during divorce proceeding hearings, Reyes asked Cook County Court Judge Renee Goldfarb if he could take his daughter, Ela, to Catholic Mass on Easter Sunday. The judge denied his request, citing the restraining order.

The judges’ final ruling in the divorce case is expected to be delivered in a couple weeks. 

Reyes converted to Judaism when he married his wife, Rebecca, and according to her promised to raise their daughter in the Jewish faith. But after the couple filed for divorce he baptized Ela without his wife’s knowledge.

Artists Converge After ‘The Passion’


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Christian children wearing their Sunday best for last week’s Easter services understandably could forget, amidst their Easter egg hunts, that the Last Supper of Jesus was a Passover seder.

But in this season of Easter and Passover, connections between the holidays has inspired an art exhibit showcasing Christian and Jewish artists motivated by religious themes. The exhibit is housed in downtown Los Angeles at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Its aspirations and the artworks themselves are impressive, though the effort has suffered from uneven presentation of the artwork.

The “Passion/Passover” exhibit could be viewed as a positive response to Jewish-Catholic tensions surrounding last year’s “The Passion of the Christ” by filmmaker Mel Gibson. His film was praised by Catholic church officials, though many Jewish leaders said the film unreasonably cast Jews as villains.

The exhibit’s 14 artists — seven Jewish and seven Christian — have displayed some 23 pieces interpreting each faith’s respective Passover and Easter themes.

“People began to see there were comparisons between the two holy seasons,” said Gordon Fuglie, director of the Laband Art Gallery at Loyola Marymount University.

Featured Jewish artists include Santa Barbara-based Laurie Gross. Her “Miriam and the Women” is a dozen folded and twisted strips of fabric that call to mind a tallit.

“A number of the pieces that I’ve done use biblical woman,” said Gross, who described “Miriam” as “part of a journey of my Jewish heritage. Miriam is one of the women that we look to as a role model — of leadership, speaking her mind, speaking out.”

The exhibit grouped art pieces by religion, with Jewish art grouped together and Christian art grouped in separate clusters.

As a result, in Gross’ view, “there wasn’t anything integrated about the exhibit.”

Still, the exhibit displayed the work of Jewish women, she said. And the art, taken as a body of work, shows how, “we’re trying very hard as women today to pull those voices out of text. Women are writing contemporary Midrash,” she said. “I feel what I do as an artist is visual Midrash. That gives us a role in carrying on the tradition, filling in the blanks.”

The pieces by Christian artists in “Passion/Passover” are noticeably larger — such as the crucifixion watercolor by the exhibit’s co-curator, the Rev. Michael Tang, the chair of the art and art history department at Loyola Marymount University.

“Catholics particularly are used to a tradition of commissions of large-scale works,” said Ruth Weisberg, dean of USC’s School of Fine Arts and a member of the cathedral’s arts and furnishings committee. “All the Catholic artists but one [had] done very large-scale work. The Jewish artists had all chosen smaller works.

The lesser-sized Jewish artworks created a sort of metaphor set within the hugeness of the Catholic cathedral, suggesting how the world’s 12 millions Jews live among hundreds of millions of Christians.

UCLA art department chair Barbara Drucker, who contributed her work, “Calendar Notation,” said that unlike some of the pieces by Jewish artists, the Christian artworks were not “questioning the existence of God.”

Many of the large pieces by Christian artists are displayed in the cathedral’s chapel-like alcoves, including one with walls and lighting akin to a traditional art gallery. The smaller Jewish pieces are more likely to be found in less well-lit spaces — at least four of the Jewish artists were unhappy with the lighting and presentation.

No disrespect was intended, said those involved with the exhibit. Some exhibit issues simply couldn’t be helped, such as dealing with a large Christian piece on loan from a museum. The artwork’s space and lighting requirement mandated that it go into a large alcove.

“The works in the Christ-themed room were larger and more monumental,” Fuglie said. “For the next time around, somebody really needs to understand how the space works.”

USC’s Weisberg said the cathedral’s arts and furnishings committee, “is concerned and wants better lighting. This is their first time out with contemporary art in the cathedral.”

Financial backing for the exhibit featured a pronounced interfaith theme, with support from philanthropists, including Roy Disney, Eli Broad and Stanley Gold.

Despite the glitches, artist Deborah Lefkowitz said she was “quite interested in the resonance my work might have when exhibited in a space devoted to prayer.”

“Passion/Passover: Artists of Faith Interpret Their Holy Days” runs through May 1 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 555 W. Temple Street, Los Angeles. For more information, call (213) 680-5200.

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Passover vs. Easter


If you want proof that the communion wafer is just a matzo knockoff, or if you wonder where eggs really belong (seder plate? White House lawn? Omelette?), check out “The Jews vs. Christians” on April 3 at bang. Improv Studio on Fairfax Avenue.

Twenty-four Jewish and Christian members of bang., considered “an alternative to the alternative” on the local improv scene, will put up their comedy dukes erev Easter in the heart of Jewish Los Angeles at bang.’s storefront theater up the block from Canter’s.

With guest stars from Chicago’s famed Second City, they’ll improvise 25-minute sets on what really happened during the Exodus and the Crucifixion, maybe even invent a musical, “Pesach!” the Jewish answer to “Godspell.”

“The Jews vs. Christians,” the brainchild of bang. conservatory alumnus Ben Simonetti, is an improvisational Holy War that began last December when performers debated the merits of latkes vs. sugarplums. One religious group will be declared victorious at the end of next week’s Passover-Easter show — at least until the next grudge match at Christmas-Chanukah.

bang., deemed Los Angeles’ best comedy bargain by Buzz Weekly, was co-founded in 1995 by Aliza and Peter Murrieta, who met at Second City and have battled the December dilemma in their real-life mixed marriage.

She’s Jewish; he’s a Mexican-American lapsed Catholic. And, yes, they’ll be playing on opposite teams in “The Jews vs. Christians.”

The show is subversive, Aliza says. “It sounds like it’s based in conflict, but the truth is, we’re all working together to create something fun.”

“The Jews vs. Christians” plays on Saturday, April 3, at 8 p.m. At bang., 457 N. Fairfax Ave. Tickets are $6, and reservations are strongly advised: (323) 653-6886.

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